Garage Sale of the Century Recap.

You found us! Yay for you!

I've been meaning to move over to WordPress for a while now, and finally got around to it. I managed to move all the blogger content over to WordPress a while back, and then I forgot I did it and wrote a few more posts on my blogger account. Oops. So…I copied and pasted them here. I'm so hi-tech. Aren't you proud of me?

Now for the real news!

Holy Garage Sale Amazingness!!!

What kind of crazy garage sale brings in that kind of money? I have absolutely no idea how that happened, other than the fact that God must have multiplied the money once it hit the change box. πŸ™‚ So many wonderful friends donated loads and loads of stuff for us to sell. Our oh so gracious and amazing friends Tom and Emma let us host the sale at their house since we live on a super steep hill. On Thursday night we stood in their house attempting to sort the junk sale items, and we literally almost cried (well, not so much Jed and Tom, more like Emma and me…or maybe just me…). It was a serious case of Hoarders. Tom and Emma get a standing ovation for hosting this beast. We made such memories together…I would almost be tempted to do a re-do just for some more quality snacking with T and E…almost.

We priced the items low, and then prayed for loads of buyers. And guess what? Our prayers were answered beyond our wildest dreams!! Tons of shoppers were commenting on how few garage sales there were that weekend…our sale was the only big one in the area…THANK YOU JESUS! He cares about every.single.detail- right down to the friends providing pumpkin spice lattes and milkshakes just when I needed them. πŸ˜‰ Can I get an amen? Hehe

Tom, Emma, Debbie, Joe and Kim, Duane and Kim, Becki, Curtis and Sara, Jasmine, Ashley, Rosa, Vicki, Carli, Hannah, Mom and Dad, Sam and Ang…and everyone else I'm forgetting, THANK YOU for the coffee, the donations, the blizzards, the doughnuts, the help with the kiddos. You are all ginormous blessings to us and our hearts were/are bursting with all the love and support we felt from our friends and family. High five Team Garage Sale!

The proceeds from that garage sale, combined with one done by friends earlier in the summer raised a whoppin' $3100! That almost paid for our plane tickets. We are most blessed, and we are most done with garage sales.


All In.

Home again!  The National Vineyard Leaders Conference was basically amazing awesomeness wrapped up in wonderfulness.
Best.Time.Ever.  I loved every second of it.  

Truth be told, I was a bit nervous heading into this conference.  I may, or may not have shed a few tears over it in nervous anticipation.  Ha!  I wanted Jed to be the one to represent us, but he had to work, so he sent me instead.  He’s the “connector extraordinaire”.  I’m usually too busy herding kids to do much connecting.  But, God definitely had a plan for me this week.  I’m still reeling in the wonder of it all.

This is an absolutely amazing time to be a part of the Vineyard family.  God is calling the Vineyard out in the areas of justice, mercy, and compassion like never before. 

“If we’re Kingdom people- believing that God’s kingdom is coming to earth right here and now- than we should be the frontrunners in justice, mercy, and compassion ministries”  
Tri Robinson

YES!!!  Oh man, I loved it when I heard those words spoken.  To see a room jam packed with Vineyard folks wanting to know how their body can better serve the lost and forgotten did my heart good. I won’t soon forget it.  

The theme of the conference was “All In”.  “All In” has two meanings.  One meaning is that all ages are “All In”.  All are needed for God’s full purposes to be accomplished.  We don’t just need the young- forgetting about the wisdom of the old.  We don’t just need the older- forgetting about the energy of the young.  No.  ALL are needed in this movement.  We honor what each age can bring to the table.  Everyone gets to play.  

The second meaning of “All In”, is that we are ALL IN.  Not just dipping our toes in the things of God, not just testing the waters. 
No.  We are ALL IN.   

“We believe that if the pursuit if the Kingdom of God is worth anything, it’s worth everything.”  

-Phil Strout (National Director, Vineyard USA)

He is worth everything.  EVERYTHING.  
Why not?  
What have we got to lose?  

One speaker that I loved was talking about the fear of the Lord.  He said that what we fear most is what we love most, what we want most in life.  We should fear losing sight of Jesus more than anything else.  More than fear of failure, fear of change, fear of losing my kids, fear of giving everything up…we should fear the Lord above all else.  

We’re giving up just about everything to move to Ukraine.  We’re all in.  But what do I fear?  I find myself fearing how my kids will do.  I find myself wondering if our kids will hate us for this decision.  I find myself fearing failure.  But, why?   If my kids are perfectly safe and comfy, but I have lost sight of Jesus, than it’s all for not.  We must step outside of our coziness, our need for safety and control and fall into His arms.  ALL IN.  Fear losing sight of Him over fear of losing control, fear of being unsafe.  Jesus never called us to safety.  He bid us come and die.  Only then will we know true life. Oh boy, I want true life so badly.  I want to be all in- holding nothing back.  What have I got to lose?  If He is my reason for being…why not spend myself for Him?  

All In is saying yes.  Step, by step, by step we say Yes to Him. Comfort, my expectations, safety, all move aside in order that I might keep Him in my sights.  

β€œAnyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 10:37-39

Will you dive ALL IN with us?  What if you stayed on the same path you’re on for the rest of your life?  Would it lead to Him?  What if? What if you said yes to Him today, and the next day, and the next day?  What have you got to lose?  Whatever it is, He is worth it.  


Something’s stirring. 

We only have one chance at this thing called life.

We have one chance to live- truly LIVE.

The things of this world will pass away.

What if we gave our lives away?  What if we stopped grasping for what our society, our neighbors, our friends, even our family tells us is important?  

What if we gave our lives away- all the way? 

What if we spent our lives completely on Him?

It’s His breath in our lungs- there for purpose- to live this life for Him alone.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.
-Luke 9:24

There’s something new stirring in me.  Something more radical than before.  What do I hold on to that doesn’t really matter? What do I worry about for my kids that is of no eternal importance?  

I want to live radically for Him.  I want to give my whole life away- holding nothing back.  
Why would we not?  That’s what we were created for! 

My world is turning upside down again and I’m not sure what that means, but I’m pretty sure it needed to happen.  

He is worth it.  He is worth giving our lives away.  He is why we were created.  He is why.



Warm Buses and Warm Hearts…hehehe

It’s a well-known fact among my real-life friends and fam that I’m an extra warm-blooded person.  I rarely wear a coat, and Jed constantly bemoans the fact that I’m passing that trait on to our kids.  Who needs a jacket?  They’re so bulky!  I’d much rather run from the house to the car to the store and back, than to be suffocated by a bulky jacket.  Don’t even get me started on the suffocation factor of scarves.  I get it that they’re cute, a little pop of color for an otherwise bland outfit, but am I the only one that can’t handle the strangulation?  Just the thought of a turtleneck makes me feel like my airway is about to close.

All that to say, warm weather and lack of airflow is a major downfall to my suitability as a missionary.  If you’ve ever traveled overseas you know what I mean.  Think warm bus, no windows down, stalled in traffic.  I have to talk myself down from the ledge.  “You actually won’t suffocate.  There is air available, just breathe deeply.”  
The vent right above my head…doesn’t work. 

Where am I going with this?  I have no idea.  I just had to talk it out because as I write this we’re on a fairly warm bus headed back to Zhitomir.  I’ve been sweating for the past 12 days, and so it continues today.  (I’m a Bittner.  We sweat.) Anywayssssss….I just needed you to feel my pain for a sec.  I feel better now.  πŸ™‚

Now, on to more pleasant topics that don’t involve sweat and strangulation.  
This past weekend was loads of fun!  We drove back to Kiev on Friday afternoon with our friend Oleg who happened to be heading that way.  He dropped us at the metro and we headed to the church where they were having a concert to reach the unreached.  We took the metro to the stop we knew was closest to the church and then hopped off.  It’s like a 20 minute walk from the metro to the church, and Jed, with his bat-like sense of direction, led us straight there without a hitch.  What a guy.
Jed promptly filled in on the bass and we got to see lots of people we love.  It was a good time.  
After the concert we went home with our friend Sergei.  We had the BEST time staying with Sergei and Alyona.  Seriously.  Being around their kids made us miss our babies something fierce, but we managed.  πŸ™‚  
Alyona cooked for us and fed us nonstop.  Yum.  Who am I to complain?  Her love language is feeding people, and we’re eaters; a match made in heaven.  

On Saturday morning we met Jim and Marianna Peipon (remember Olya and I went with Marianna to visit the baby at the hospital?) at their flat to tag along with them to a picnic.  Fun, fun, fun!  The picnic was for a coalition for children at risk.  Basically, a group of people consisting of Ukrainians, Americans, Russians, and Mexicans, who work with children at risk in various ways around Kiev got together to fellowship and eat together.  They welcomed us with open arms and we had a great time.  It was so fascinating to hear about what others are doing to help kids and how God led them to Ukraine.  We made some new friendships and some good connections.  Who knows what God plans to do with those relationships in the future?  We are open, and excited to find out.  Thank you new friends for making us feel so welcome!  We’ll see you again soon with kiddos in tow!
Saturday afternoon and evening we hung out with various friends and laughed a lot.  
Sunday, oh I loved Sunday.  It started out with Alyona feeding us some more delicious food, and ended the same.  Hehe
We headed out to church by taxi after the frantic rusharound of your typical Sunday morning.  It was hilarious to talk (sign/google translate) with Sergei about how Sunday mornings are the same for families all around the world.  “Hurry up!  Eat your breakfast!  Stop hitting your brother please.  Grrrrr.”  Then you get to church “Hallelujah….”  Yep.  Sunday morning in Ukraine is just like Sunday morning in Salem.  Why is that?  Hilarious and true.  If your Sunday morning isn’t stressful, let me in on your secret. πŸ˜‰ 
After a great time at church we joined our friends in their typical Sunday afternoon hangout.  Everyone takes the marshrutka to our fave: Puzata Hata!  Puzata Hata is a cafeteria-style Ukrainian restaurant.  Delish and cheap with plenty of space for hours of chattin’ it up.  As our friend Andrei says “Sunday afternoon is for relationship.”
Sunburned…my bad.
After the deliciousness of Puzata Hata we walked for a bit, talking more, till we got to the metro and parted ways.  Sergei and Alyona went to go buy their kids a pet mouse (yep, that’s totally not happening at my house) and we went with our friend Elvin to chat more since we won’t see him again before we leave Ukraine.  
After that it was home again home again jiggety jig.  Alyona fed us some more, and Jed and Sergei drooled over guitars online- just your typical Sunday night when you live with a musician.  

Anya and I did this:
I give this past weekend two thumbs way up.  We are so blessed to have good friends in Kiev who love us.  The feeling is so mutual.


Blind Date on Sunday

Warning, I’m in a bit of a mood.  Not a bad mood, just a quirky mood.  An I’m-not-sure-what-will-come-out-of-my-mouth (or fingers) mood.  You’ve been warned.  Now feel free to read on.  πŸ™‚
Today was loads of fun.  I laughed a lot today.  Don’t you love days like that?  
Today I got to go to Kiev Vineyard!  I love that place so much.  Jed was super jealous, and you all should be jealous too because it’s a wonderful place to be.  Hehe

Last year when we walked into Kiev Vineyard we felt right at home, and I felt that even more this time.  I feel like I can just “be”.  I don’t have to be “on”.  I don’t have to be a certain anything.  I am loved just as I am.  I may not understand a lick of the worship or teaching, but I understand the heart, the passion, the love.  Our hearts beat the same as the other hearts in that room and that’s enough.  

After church my friends Anya and Sasha walked me to the metro because I had a blind date with an American couple.  Anya and Sasha were pretty afraid to leave me to navigate the metro alone.  What? Me, alone in a city of millions of people I can’t communicate with, on the metro, alone?  What’s to worry about?  Ha!  I wasn’t worried at all.  

They wanted to come along, but I promised I would be fine. After I finally promised to call Sasha when I arrived, they let me go.  I felt so loved!  πŸ™‚
The metro is a people-watcher’s heaven.  Seriously.  Old people, babies, people in a rush, people taking their time, people with flowers, people with guitars, Babushkas with big grocery bags.  I just want to squeeze those cute little grandmas!  They’re so stinkin’ cute!  
Annnnnd I made the trip without a hitch!  Aren’t you all proud of me?  

I met Kevin and Debbie Nelson on my blind date and just had the best time.  I can’t say enough.  I love them!  The crazy thing is, I got their info from my friend Kim who’s been praying for them for a long time now, but she’s never met them.  Jed and I thought we shouldn’t turn down any possible connection so we emailed the Nelsons and arranged the date.  Then I was talking with a co-worker at the hospital a week before I left for this trip and she told me she has a cousin in Kiev and I should meet her.  Well, the cousin just happens to be the one and only, Debbie Nelson!  Ha!  Destiny’s child I tell ya.

Kevin, Debbie, and I went to my fave restaurant, Puzata Hata, so I was instantly happy.  We proceeded to spend the next almost 3 hours chattin it up about life in Ukraine and what brought us all here.  I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of the Nelsons because they are just fabulous.  They are real, funny, wise, and faithful.  God first took them to Russia where they served for several years, and now they’ve been in Ukraine for the past 8 years.  They gave me advice on everything from prayer support, to visas, to apartment choosing, to appliance voltage, to grocery shopping.
(You all know I was thankful for that one in particular!) 

I would totally consider a second date with Kevin and Debbie.  Too bad it can’t be tomorrow!  πŸ™‚
I managed to make it home to Olya’s apartment without getting even close to lost, and came home to an apartment filled with friends.  Success.

Tomorrow Olya and I head to Zhitomir to check out the future Johnson landing place and to meet with a realtor.  It should be quite the adventure.  House Hunters International anyone?  

Good night all!  A special good night to my Mom.  Love you Mom!  Happy Mother’s Day!  Here’s your present! 

(She wants more pictures of me on the blog, just like I can’t get enough pics of my babies while I’m gone.  Once a mommy, always a mommy)  πŸ™‚